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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Younger Risks

Looking back to the high energy, fun-seeking days of my youth, I realize that I, like most American teens, once possessed a high propensity to engage in risky behavior. In my younger days, I felt seeking what we then called carefree "kicks" was perfectly natural and 100% safe. This unconstrained, bulletproof attitude even served to build my "rep" and bolster the "tuff" image that spurred my popularity.

Seeking novel experiences, I yearned for adventures that would bring me ever closer to crossing lines of safety and reason. Venturing into uncharted territories, I tested the limits of my ever-expanding freedom and blindly trusted luck during my many risky excursions. I found rushes of excitation to be irresistible. After all, cool people "did things" while the squares just thought about "doing them."

This is not to say that I didn't calculate my movements and consider the consequences of my behavior. My conscience always begged me to exercise constraint, but I had a brain full of morals and values and a body full of adrenaline and testosterone. Needless to say, I made more than my share of bad decisions that resulted in disasters. Now, I consider myself very lucky to have survived the falls of youth with minimal permanent damage.

Why did I ever flirt with dangers that might have taken the ultimate toll? I've thought about this, and I've come up with some answers.

When I was young, I was...

1. Easily bored,
2. Overly curious,
3. Significantly insecure,
4. Subject to peer pressure,
5. Fun-loving,
6. Longing to prove maturity,
7. Prone to seek attention,
8. Easily impressionable,
9. Drawn toward rebellion,
10. Blind to reality.

Now that I'm an old geezer -- the one with the permanently flashing turn signal driving  45 MPH on the freeway -- I've learned that a slower, more deliberate lifestyle will likely buy me some more precious time. I know now that thinking I'm cool by doing things that can potentially damage my health and the health of others is stupid and selfish.

I still like to have fun; however, I understand that I can be very happy by eliminating risks and walking the line.
In fact, I admire most those who find joy in the good, small things life has to offer. I see that adventurous complications often draw me away from my best interests.

And, I understand that the best peers are those who do not pressure me, but, who, instead, take me for the person I am (with all of my hangups and faults). These friends stand the tests of trials and time.

Most of all, I have learned to hate -- to hate all of those excesses that have robbed me of good friendships formed in my youth:

the speeding car;
the ever-flowing alcohol;
the cancerous drug addiction;
the violent, spur-of-the-moment emotion;
the life-choking cigarette,
the unrelenting mental illness.

Gone is my high propensity to engage in risky behaviors. I see these thoughtless actions end the lives of too many much too soon.

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